Buying a climbing rack


The first key bit of advice we’d give when buying a climbing rack is to make sure you visit a reputable equipment shop.  Well trained staff will know what you need and give you good advice.  So, here’s some guidance on what to buy.  We’ve separated it out into the various options for different aspects of the sport and we hope it makes sense.

We’ve focussed on what you will need when buying a climbing rack for shorter single pitch trad routes such as those found in the Peak District National Park. For longer or more complicated routes the requirements will be very different and there are a lot of additional considerations when climbing at venues such as sea cliffs.

There are many equipment manufacturers and when you choosing a particular product the choices can be rather overwhelming. We predominantly use climbing equipment by DMM, Black Diamond, Edelrid, Petzl and Mammut. Each of these manufacturers also has a very informative website which can provide a great resource when you are researching options.  

Of course, we are only at the end of an email in case you want to clarify or check anything – buying a climbing rack is a rite of passage for every climber and we want to share the adventure with you.

Climbing equipment for seconding on a climbing wall

Harness – Go to a good climbing shop and try several on.  Bear in mind there are male and female models available. The harness should be padded on the waist and legs and have a minimum of 5 gear loops if you intend lead climbing outside.

Rock shoes – It is vital to go into a reputable shop, get quality advice and try loads on.  When fitted your toes should touch the end of the shoe and when you twist the shoe your toes should twist too. All shoes stretch a little with wear (unlined shoes stretch more than lined models) but you don’t need to buy them too tight. 

Belay device and carabiner – There are lots of excellent belay devices on the market. Some have features to improve friction and this helps if you are using slicker or thinner ropes. Pair it with a suitable belay carabiner and you have the perfect system. There are also several belay devices on the market with assisted braking incorporated.  This can offer an extra level of security and maybe worth considering.

Additional equipment for leading on climbing walls

Quickdraws – Most walls have these already in place but check with the individual wall you are visiting.

Rope – Walls are tough on ropes so a lot of people go for a cheaper option for wall use. As a general guide a 50 metre 10mm diameter rope will be perfect for use both at the wall and leading outside. For shorter walls and shorter single pitch crags you can often get away with something like a 30 metre rope but many indoor walls now have routes up to 25 metres in length which means, by the time you have lowered your partner down, you will need it to be 50 metres long. We wrote an article on choosing a climbing rope here.

Additional equipment for seconding trad or sport routes outside

Sling and carabiners – A 120cm sling and small screwgate carabiner is really useful for clipping in to belays.  It is also handy to have one additional larger HMS screwgate carabiner.

Nutkey – A nutkey is an essential trad tool.

Prussik loops – 2 prussik loops are really useful (but only if you know how and when to use them). One of our Climbers Self-Rescue courses would provide a lot of vital techniques.

Helmet – You’d be crazy not too!

Additional equipment for starting to trad lead outside

Quickdraws – 6 quickdraws will be enough for many short outcrop routes but you will need to increase the number for routes with a lot of nut placements or longer pitches.  We also carry some tripled 60cm slings for trad use as they are so versatile. These are often referred to as trad or Alpine draws.

Nuts – For shorter routes a set of nuts (sometimes called wires) such as Wild Country Rocks or DMM Wallnuts are essential.  It is cheaper to buy them in a set and the anodised colour coded versions make it easier to find the one you need. We wrote about choosing climbing nuts here.

Hexes – A set of DMM Torque Nuts or WC Rockcentrics size 5-8 are the gold standard for hexes.

Slings – 3 x 120cm Dyneema slings of around 10mm width or the newer Edelrid Aramid cord slings work really well.  It is useful to have each with its own screwgate carabiner.

Screwgates – 2 x small screwgates.

Carabiners – 8 additional carabiners for racking wires, connecting slings and all the other little jobs. We prefer keylock solid gates for racking wires and lightweight wire gates for connecting runners (but opinions vary). We wrote about carabiner types here (part one) and here (part two). 

That will be plenty to get you started but, as time goes on, you will want to make some additions

More nuts – A second set of nuts (choose a different brand from your first set to give you more options). Our inspiration article on the history of climbing nuts here makes interesting reading.

Cams – Although they take judgement to place securely and are expensive, a small number of cams will add a lot of versatility to your rack.  The key sizes when forming a rack are mid-size cams like, for example,  Black Diamond Camalots size 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2 and 3. Then, over time you can add smaller and larger sizes to pad out your selection. We also wrote a useful article on caring for your cams here.

Of course, the ideal place to practice using all this equipment is one of our broad selection of rock climbing courses!